Touring prestigious universities in the U.S.
Many foreign visitors to the U.S., especially those with pre-college-age children thinking about studying abroad, are interested in touring its big-name universities. This article is a short overview of top-tier university tourism in the U.S. Keep in mind that every university listed below has extensive information for visitors (especially prospective students) on its website, which should be considered the most up-to-date source of information.
East coast universities
With the exception of Berkeley, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and a handful of others, the most renowned universities in the U.S. are clustered on the East Coast of the U.S.
Nearly all of the East Coast universites are easily reachable by the Boston-Washington Amtrak Northeast Corridor rail line, although it is much faster to fly between far-flung cities on the Corridor (Boston to Washington is a 90-minute flight versus an eight-hour train ride.) Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. and cities between are also served by commercial bus lines, the cheapest of which are Chinatown bus services, which travel between the Chinatowns in the four major cities. Road travel, whether by bus or by car, may not be the best option for the farthest-flung points. Car travel can be a nightmare in tangled cities like Boston. Renting or driving, however, does afford one the most freedom of movement.
The universities: Harvard and MIT
Starting from the North and working down the coast, one could begin in Cambridge (Massachusetts), a city which abuts Boston, Massachusetts and houses two of the most famous schools in the world, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Arriving by train from the south will bring you to South Station, which connects directly to MIT and Harvard on the Red Line subway. Arrival by plane will bring you to Logan Airport, from which Cambridge can be reached by car, or by train by taking the Blue Line to Government Center, the Green Line to Park Street, and the Red Line to Harvard or Kendall/MIT.
MIT's main enterance is located at 77 Massachusetts Avenue, just across the Charles River from Boston. Perversely, the Red Line subway stop for MIT is located nowhere near the main enterance; those arriving by train will have to walk east down Main Street to Vassar Street, then turn left (south) on Massachusetts Avenue where it crosses Vassar. The walk is much shorter if the buildings are open (which they are on weekdays). From the subway station, walk directly south to building E25, and walk east through it. Continue straight eastward across Ames St until one cannot go any further, head south to the nearest door, which opens onto a very long hallway, MIT's Infinite Corridor. At the end of the corridor is the 77 Mass. Ave enterance to MIT. In inclement weather, one can take the MIT students' route: once in E25, take the stairs down to the basement, and follow the signs for the main campus in the tunnels.
Once you reach the 77 Mass Ave enterance, the MIT student center is directly across the street. North on Mass Ave. is the MIT Museum, which includes an exhibit by the pioneering Tech Model Railroad Club.
Two Red Line stops away from MIT (or a very long walk up Massachusetts Avenue) is Harvard University. Harvard's landmark location is Harvard Yard, the heart of Harvard College (the undergraduate arm of Harvard University), and the home of the College's freshman dormitories, the mammoth Widener Library, and the statue of John Harvard (a favorite with tourists). The Yard is directly adjacent to the Harvard Red Line station. Across Massachusetts Avenue from the train station is the Harvard Coop, a three-building university store housing a cafe, a bookstore, and mountains of Harvard paraphanelia, among other things. Harvard Square's profusion of bookstores and coffee shops merit a discussion of their own, which may be found in the Cambridge article.
The universities: Princeton
Princeton University is located in Princeton, New Jersey; the article on the town carries more detailed information about the school. The campus can be reached by car or train from nearby New York in about an hour, depending on traffic or train frequency.
The west coast
Stanford University is reachable from the San Francisco, California airport, either by airport shuttle bus (SuperShuttle) or by car.
University of Chicago. Famous for economics. Ohio State University/Penn State University. Huge huge institutions, lots of foreign students.